Coastal flooding could cost $1 trillion by 2050, as Task Force warns to prepare for future storms

climate change coastal flooding sea level rise map
© Climate Desk

We've long known that sea level rise caused by global warming would threaten people and communities along the coasts, like Miami, Nantucket, Malibu, New York and others, but a new study puts a startling figure on the potential damage. Hopefully these studies and a new presidential report will inspire coastal states to act.

Following the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, President Obama created the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force to study what should be done to prevent similar damage from future storms.

On Monday, the Task Force delivered its report.

[The report says] coastal communities should assume floods are going to happen more frequently and realize that spending more now on protective measures could save money later. It calls for development of a more advanced electrical grid less likely to be crippled in a crisis, and the creation of better planning tools and standards for communities rebuilding storm-damaged areas.


Some of the group's key recommendations are already being implemented, including the creation of new flood-protection standards for major infrastructure projects built with federal money and the promotion of a sea-level modeling tool that will help builders and engineers predict where flooding might be an issue in the future.

Meanwhile, a new study from Nature found that coastal flooding could cost more than $1 trillion in global flood damage by 2050.

Three cities in the US – Miami, New York and New Orleans – and Guangzhou in China are together expected to shoulder 43 per cent of the burden. Other cities facing the highest flood losses in 2050 included Mumbai, Jakarta, Boston, Bangkok and Abidjan, while in Europe, the cities of Marseille, Naples and Athens were also at risk.

The loss estimate is based on projections of climate change, land subsidence and urban growth in coastal centres. The researchers based their predictions on data from 136 of the largest coastal urban settlements around the world.

Tim McDonnell at the Climate Desk finds the positive:

Sounds grim, but there's a silver lining: Installing robust protective infrastructure that accounts not just for sea level rise but also population growth and future shoreline development could reduce annual losses to $52 billion. As is so often the case with climate change preparation, investment up front can save big bucks down the road. After all, Hallegatte says, even the cost of massive sea walls, natural barriers, and other coastal protection will seem like chump change compared to a scenario where "we have cities destroyed and we have to rebuild them again and again."

IMAGE: Tim McDonnell at Climate Desk maps areas especially threatened by coastal flooding.

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